How Does Cleaning Help My Optical Power Budget?

Absolutely. A signal loss budget or “optical power budget” can be a victim of either poor cleaning tools or poor technique. A few minutes with your OTDR will demonstrate that clean connectors improve (reduce) signal losses, particularly in respect to insertion loss and back reflection. WDM networks also enjoy reduced chromatic aberration. All this enables the networks to run farther and faster.

In a recent field trial in the Mediterranean Sea, an operator of a remotely operated undersea vehicle working on the ocean floor discovered a slow but continuous degradation of the optical power budget, ultimately reaching 20db of loss. A complete and thorough inspection of every end-face in the system revealed that there were extensive cleaning issues at every junction. Previously the team had used alcohol and traditional ‘lint-free’ wipes that did not get the end-faces sufficiently clean. Switching to Sticklers™ fiber cleaning products restored the multi-million dollar robot to operating specifications.

An OTDR can be used to measure signal loss due to contaminated end-faces
An OTDR can be used to measure signal loss due to contaminated end-faces
Image courtesy Viavi.

In the screen shot, right, an OTDR trace shows a highly contaminated connector exceeding the optical power budget of the circuit. In this example, the 0.7 dB connection degrades to a 3.2 dB show-stopper due to dirt on the connector. This reduces the supportable distance for this fiber link by 90%. Clean networks are happy networks!